[Milton-L] re: PL and genre
BlevinsJake at aol.com
BlevinsJake at aol.com
Tue Sep 7 08:03:16 EDT 2004
Sorry, a definite exaggeration, (never comes off quite right in email). But
I should have known you of all people would not let me get away with that.
No, it's not really a "tirade" against anything, but it is a speech that
claims superiority for biblical models, thus undermining the value of classical
learning and literature as the premier material for emulation. Ever
since--boy, since I was an undergraduate I bet--that passage in PR has struck me as a
crucial point in Milton. The reader, having probably just finished the
wonderful complexity of Milton's mingling of the classical and Christian in PL,
gets to Christ, the son of Man himself, arguing that essentially Job is a
better model than Homer, David a better model than Ovid or Catullus, etc.
However, as great a work as PR is, it's hard to agree with Jesus after PL. The
Jesus speech fits in with the theme of pagan supplementation we see all the way
back in the Nativity Ode and implicitly in "Lycidas."
The irony of course is that Jesus' speech shows Milton's own dependence on
that same knowledge being underplayed--as if all of his other
classically-modeled work isn't enough. Milton just HAS to think that he is doing something
better in PR than he did in PL (does any writer venture to write something not
as good as his previous work?), but as readers the "Jobian" epic just never
works quite as well. I argue that Milton's work centers around this
"problem," and if SA is indeed a later work (a big "if," I know), perhaps it
represents Milton's final attempt at reconciling this classical/Christian
issue--let's explicitly model the form on classical tragedy but write it
without classical allusion, without a superficial reliance on classics, and offer a
pure Judeo-Christian theme set firmly in the structural conventions of a
classical genre (Johnson's later comments notwithstanding). With that, we're
back to my original positive statements for and interest in John's dissertation
Let me also say, that this thread allows me, as a feel my way through my
prelim. chapters for my project, to seek some input from this listserv, whose
opinions and expertise I ALWAYS value. And forgive any lack of clarity in this
message as it's 4:30 in the morning; I can't sleep.
Assistant Professor of English
McNeese State University
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